Persian Rice Ring
120 MIN

Persian Rice Ring

For over 3,000 years, Nawroz — in Persian “naw” is new and “roz” is day — the Persian New Year, which symbolizes renewal and rebirth, has been celebrated during springtime in central and western Asia along with parts of the Balkans.

This Persian rice ring is a showstopper, and though the recipe is complicated and lengthy, it’s not hard to make. I’m always looking for ways to reduce the amount of meat I eat, so the mushrooms and lentils are added to contribute texture and flavor to the filling.

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Cook Time

2 Hours



Rice Ring and Filling:
Step 1
Rinse the lentils in warm water 4 to 5 times and soak for 2 to 3 hours. Drain.
Step 2
Rinse the basmati rice in cold water 4 to 5 times then soak for about 2 hours. Soak saffron in 2 to 3 tablespoons of warm water. Drain the rice, combine with 3 cups of water, saffron water, orange zest, and salt and bring to a boil.
Step 3
Lower heat, cover the rice and cook for 7 to 10 minutes or until cooked through and the water has evaporated. Turn heat off, gently fold the rice over, set it aside and let it cool.
Step 4
In a Dutch oven or a stockpot with a thick bottom, heat the ghee and add the cardamom seeds and minced onions. Cook on high heat until the onions have sweated and turn golden brown. Add the garlic, lamb, and mushrooms.
Step 5
Cook on high heat for 4 to 5 minutes then add the lentils, turmeric, cumin, coriander, chile, and salt, lower the heat and continue cooking for another 4 to 5 minutes until the spices have incorporated into the mixture.
Step 6
Add 2 to 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook the mixture for 20 to 30 minutes. The lentils will soften and the mixture will thicken.
Step 7
Next add the tomatoes and fenugreek and continue cooking the mixture for another 20 minutes — it should be thick but not dry, and all elements should be cooked through. Stir the cinnamon, almonds, and currants into the lamb mixture. Take it off the heat and cool the mixture.
Step 8
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously grease a 9-inch springform pan with butter on all sides. Incorporate the cooled rice gently with yogurt until it is evenly mixed. Press into the bottom (roughly 1-inch layer) and bring it up the sides to create a cavity for the lamb filling. Spread the cooled lamb mix into the cavity and top off with the remaining rice-yogurt mix.
Step 9
Cover the rice ring loosely with foil and place in the oven. After 30 minutes, remove the foil and continue cooking the rice ring for another 30 to 45 minutes until all sides appear golden. Remove the rice ring and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Loosen the edges with a knife, remove the outer ring, and gently flip the rice ring over on a serving plate — take off the top metal plate, garnish with herbs, and serve immediately with fennel yogurt and/or plain yogurt.
Fennel Yogurt:
Step 1
Purée the yogurt with fennel fronds, cilantro leaves, serrano, and salt. Pour into a serving dish.
Step 2
Heat the olive oil and pop the fennel seeds. Immediately pull the pan off the heat and pour over the fennel yogurt.


2 cups basmati rice

Generous pinch of saffron

Zest of 2 oranges

2 teaspoons sea salt

1 cup thick Greek yogurt


1/2 cup lentils (yellow channa or moong)

4 to 6 tablespoons ghee or butter

1 teaspoon crushed cardamom seeds

2 cups minced onion

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 pound ground lamb

2 cups sliced mushrooms

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon crushed coriander seeds

1 teaspoon chile powder

2 teaspoons sea salt

1 cup canned crushed tomatoes or 2 cups diced tomatoes

1 tablespoon dried fenugreek leaves

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup sliced or slivered almonds

1/4 cup currants


2 cups plain whole milk yogurt (or Greek style)

2 cups fennel fronds

1 cup cilantro leaves

1 serrano chile

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

Notes & Variations

  • The filling can be made vegetarian with entirely mushrooms and lentils
  • Any other meat, such as chicken, turkey, or beef can be substituted.
  • Replace the saffron with turmeric, if needed.
  • Once the rice ring has been put together into the springform pan, it can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.
  • Use fennel instead of mint or basil.
120 MIN

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